Tag: CR 3

  • Brain in a Jar Tactics

    The brain in a jar—literally, exactly what it is—poses several interesting problems, along with a few unanswered questions.

    For one thing, is the “natural armor” that gives it an Armor Class of 11 supposed to be the glass of the jar? We have to assume so, because a naked brain with a −4 Dexterity modifier would have to have some ankylosaurus-grade armor plating to give it AC 11. However, according to the Object Armor Class table in chapter 8 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, a glass jar ought to have AC 13. At the same time, 55 hp is absurdly durable for even a resilient object of Small size.

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  • Dragonflesh Grafter and Abomination Tactics

    As far as I can tell, dragonflesh grafters and dragonflesh abominations are newly introduced in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, and I think they’re one of the more interesting additions to be found in this book, at least concept-wise. When you have access to (a) magic and (b) dragon parts, why wouldn’t you experiment with whether you could make yourself more powerful by combining the two? (I mean, aside from basic common sense.)

    The dragonflesh grafter is the unfinished version, still recognizably humanoid in origin, though enlarged by draconic magic and incorporating pieces of dragon anatomy, which grant it several Armor Class points’ worth of natural armor. It’s a brute, with very high Strength and high Constitution; its Charisma is low, owing to its repugnant, unnatural fusion of incompatible biologies. (Given its origin, I feel like it ought to have a higher Intelligence and a lower Wisdom: It had to be smart enough to figure out how to graft dragon flesh onto itself and foolish enough to actually do it.)

    Tactically, it’s not complicated. It has a weapon attack (as written, a greatclub, but you could swap in anything you wanted to) and a natural weapon (Claw), and its Multiattack lets it attack once with each per turn. These have a 10-foot reach, so it doesn’t approach any nearer before attacking, although its opponents may choose to move in closer in order to return the favor. It also has a quasi–breath weapon, Acid Retch, which affects a 30-foot cone and recharges as dragons’ breath weapons do. The application of this ability is the same: The dragonflesh grafter uses it whenever it’s available, provided it can target at least three enemies in the area of effect (per the Targets in Area of Effect table, Dungeon Master’s Guide, chapter 8). The grafter can’t fly, nor does it have any easy way to avoid opportunity attacks, so unlike dragons, which optimize their positioning before using their breath weapons, it has to decide whether or not to use Acid Retch based on whom it can affect from where it is.

    As written, its average Wisdom lets it retain a normal self-preservation instinct, and it flees when seriously injured (reduced to 20 hp or fewer), Dashing as it retreats and potentially provoking one or more opportunity attacks in the process. A dragonflesh grafter with a lower Wisdom, however, might be driven slightly berserk by its transformation and fight to the death.

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  • Draconian Tactics

    You thought I was salty in “Derro Tactics”? This is where I get really salty. This is where I share one of my most unpopular of unpopular Dungeons & Dragons opinions:

    I am not nostalgic for Dragonlance. At. All.

    Even as a high schooler, reading the first two Dragonlance trilogies, I recognized that those books were not good books. They were all right. They were beach reading for nerds. That was OK for me then, because I was a nerd who wanted some beach reading. From the very beginning, though, I hated the concept of the kender, which were clearly ersatz halflings free of any even marginally actionable link back to the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, distinguished by the most annoying traits the authors could come up with to assign them. Also, looking back, the depiction of gully dwarves is beyond cringeworthy.

    For me, two trilogies were plenty; the story, such as it was, felt complete. I didn’t doubt that more Dragonlance novels had been published, but my jaw dropped recently when Teos “Alphastream” Abadía posted on Twitter that there had been more than 190. (I’ve since counted the titles on the list on Wikipedia and come up with only 189 published novels, plus two more unreleased, but also another 20 short story anthologies, for a total of 209 published works.) No way does the world need that much Dragonlance.

    So, naturally, it’s going to be re-released later this year. I guess the fact that readers bought 209 Dragonlance books makes it a hot property.

    My general attitude toward the revival of old official campaign settings, with the exception of Eberron, is that I’d much rather see something entirely new. We get a little of that with Ravnica and Theros, although those are technically borrowed from another Wizards of the Coast property, Magic: The Gathering. But all the excited anticipation surrounding Planescape, Dark Sun, Spelljammer? I don’t feel it. And I especially don’t feel it about Dragonlance, which in my opinion has aged like fine milk.

    That’s all preface to the fact that this post is about draconians, a monstrous folk native to the Dragonlance setting. In that setting, as you might expect, they’re evil, but in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, they can be of any alignment, despite also being described as “bipedal monsters born from dragon eggs that have been corrupted or warped by powerful magic.” Five varieties are statted out: the foot soldier, the mage, the infiltrator, the dreadnought and the mastermind. None has an especially high challenge rating, but that’s a good thing, since they’re meant to be encountered in hordes.

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  • Dragon Follower and Dragonborn Champion Tactics

    Tyranny of Dragons (Hoard of the Dragon Queen plus The Rise of Tiamat) was the first full-length campaign I ran for my fifth-edition Dungeons & Dragons group, after putting them through The Lost Mine of Phandelver. It was the right campaign for the moment, and its linear nature and geographic jumping around made it easy to insert character-specific side quests, which I appreciated. It also had many flaws, though, and a big one is that the dragon cultists just weren’t that interesting or memorable as opponents. (There’s also all of “Mission to Thay,” chapter 8 of Rise of Tiamat, which … whoo, boy, don’t get me started on that.)

    Might the insertion of some dragon followers or dragonborn champions from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons have livened up Tyranny? Maybe, but not without some fiddling.

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  • Monsters of the Multiverse: Celestials, Fey, Elementals, Constructs, Oozes and Beasts

    Lots of monster types in this batch, but not that many monsters. The overwhelming majority of the mechanical changes in Monsters of the Multiverse went into humanoids and fiends; whether because they were designed and balanced better to begin with or because they just aren’t encountered as often, other monster types got away pretty clean.

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Praise for The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters

“I’ve always said, the Dungeon Master is the whole world except for his players, and as a result, I spend countless hours prepping for my home group. What Keith gets is that the monsters are the DM’s characters, and his work has been super helpful in adding logic, flavor, and fun in my quest to slaughter my players’ characters and laugh out the window as they cry in their cars afterward.” —Joe Manganiello

“The best movie villains are the ones you fall in love with. Keith’s book grounds villains in specificity, motivation, and tactics—so much so that players will love to hate ’em. This book will enrich your game immeasurably!” —Matthew Lillard

“This book almost instantly made me a better Dungeon Master. If you’re running games, it is a must-have enhancement. I gave copies to the two others in our group who share in the Dungeon Mastering, and both of them came back the next time grinning rather slyly. Keith is a diabolical genius, and I say that with the utmost respect!” —R.A. Salvatore

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